Tuesday, August 17, 2010


The North American counterpart to Eleagnus, thriving in the harsh climate of the Great Plains!

Shepherdia argentea ( Silver Buffaloberry )
An upright, large deciduous shrub to small tree that is native to North America ( from Kelowna, British Columbia to Red Deer, Alberta to Saskatoon, Saskatchewan to Winnipeg, Manitoba; south to California to northern Arizona to Nebraska and Iowa ). Some records include: 3 years - 10 x 10 feet; 5 years - 13 x 14 feet; largest on record - 33 x 23 feet with a trunk diameter of 2 feet. The stems live up to 32 years though the root stock may live much longer.
This plant is valued in the Great Plains as a natural hedge and shelterbelt. It can also be used for erosion control on slopes.
The oppositely-arranged, oblong leaves, up to 3 x 0.4 inches in size, are silvery.
The yellowish-white small flowers, up to 0.2 inches long, are borne during late spring.
They are followed by abundant, small, shiny red berries, up to 0.3 inches wide, on female plants. The berries are valued for attracting wildlife. The berries are bitter eaten raw due to abundant Saponins. The taste is greatly improved by cooking with sugar. The berries can then be used for pies and sauces. They can be eaten fresh including the chewable seeds.
Hardy zones 1 to 6 ( tolerating as low as -63 F ) in full sun on well drained soil. Tolerant of flooding, poor soil and extreme drought. The roots may fix their own nitrogen as does S. canadensis. Propagation is from seed or cuttings taken during summer. As for the seed, scarifying in acid to soften the seed coat, before sowing outdoors during autumn will increase germination.

* photos taken on August 5 2010 @ Woodlands Arboretum, Clinton, Ontario

* USDA-NRCS PLANTS Database / Herman, D.E., et al. 1996. North Dakota tree handbook

* historic archive photos


Shepherdia canadensis ( Russet Buffaloberry )
Similar but slightly smaller, reaching up to 13 x 9 ( rarely over 8 ) feet, and thornless. It is native to northern North America ( from Kotzebue, Alaska to far northwestern Northwest Territories to southern Nunavut to far northern Ontario to Newfoundland; south to northern Oregon to northern New Mexico to North Dakota to far northern Illinois to northern Ohio to western New York to Maine. It is found on sand dunes and rocky, open, upland woodland. It is endangered in Illinois, Indiana and Ohio where it was once more abundant on lakeshore dunes. In Ontario, it is very abundant on limestone outcrops on Manitoulin Island and on the Bruce Peninsula. In the Windsor/Essex County, Ontario region; it was only known from Point Pelee where abundant during the 1800s. On the Ohio shore; it occurred at the Vermillion River and at Cedar Point during presettlement era.
The oval leaves, up to 2 x 0.5 inches in size, are deep green above and silvery beneath.
The scarlet-red fruits, up to 0.3 inches, contain abundant saponin and can be used as soap. Cooking removed the saponins and the fruit are edible but still not very tasty.
The roots fix their own nitrogen.
Hardy zones 1 to 6, it is difficult to transplant but otherwise easy to grow anywhere with full sun on well drained soil.

* photo taken on Aug 4 2013 in Goderich, Ontario

* photos taken on July 14 2016 in Tobermory, ON

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